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Executive Insights

Overcoming tough times

By Melissa Penn, Managing Director, Sydney Dogs & Cats Home

We have experienced really hard financial times over the years, being heavily reliant on the generosity of our community of supporters to keep us going.  In recent times, with the increased cost pressure of running multiple sites, our finances looked dire and we were at risk of closure.  We had to instil some efficient and effective budget management and financial sustainability strategies immediately.  Here are 5 ways to show how we turned ourselves around. Hopefully some of these tips can help your business weather tough times too.

1. Conducted a Comprehensive Cost Audit: We began by conducting a thorough review of our current expenses. Identifying all fixed and variable costs, and categorised them based on necessity and priority.  We have always operated very leanly, but we pulled everything out that we could to minimise outgoings and strain on the organisation and developed an operating budget for each department.  This included revising our income billing structures to ensure a sustainable model was developed to not just minimise outgoings, but to maximise incomings.

2. Reviewed Organisation Chart: A problem we have always faced is not having enough resources.  However, we don’t have the funds to just keep hiring staff. So we performed a comprehensive review of our organisational structure to ensure resources were allocated efficiently.  In times of financial strain, its crucial to maximise the impact of each team member, so having the right people in the right roles is crucial.  Upskilling or cross training staff is also important to cover multiple functions, which can vary day to day.  We redistributed staff and resources to address the most critical gaps, trimming our senior leadership roles and investing more into front line areas where the biggest gaps were identified.

3. Negotiate with Suppliers and Vendors: We reviewed all our suppliers to ensure we were getting the best value and negotiated better terms, and importantly set up as many pro and low bono partnerships where possible. Many businesses are willing to discuss different forms of support, payment plans, discounts, or rebates during tough economic times. Building strong, transparent relationships with your suppliers can lead to agreements that help both parties weather financial challenges.

4. Look for Creative New Income-Generating Opportunities: In addition to cutting costs, we explored how we could innovate new income streams. This involved creating upselling opportunities, for the first-time opening Vet services to the public and other Councils, developing a new sales and merchandise range, targeting new customer and donor segments and adapting our business model.  By actively seeking new revenue sources, you can offset financial challenges and potentially discover untapped markets for your products or services. This approach focuses on not just reducing costs but also proactively driving revenue growth during challenging times. Partnerships, collaborations, and exploring emerging trends is critical.  We also tested new segments and used data to inform and guide where we invest funds in marketing and promoting to help with revenue growth.

5. System Efficiencies and Continual Improvement:  It is important that we focus on continual improvement opportunities, not just to ensure we are providing the highest quality of care for our animals, but to ensure we are working efficiently to maximise our limited resources.  This included investing in systems to enhance productivity and promote resource efficiencies. Regular reassessing and refining processes ensures our systems stay agile and are responsive to our changing and growing business needs.

Our partners are important to us. I think it’s important to continue sharing with each other trends, tips, what’s working, and what isn’t, so we can continue to build and strengthen each other and our wonderful community who continue to help lost and abandoned pets.

Thank you,


Managing Director
Sydney Dogs & Cats Home

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